Vaccine Being Developed to Combat UTIs

New York, NY
September 22, 1999

Accounting for nearly 10 million visits to the doctor and 1.5 million hospitalizations annually, urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the cause of great discomfort. Now there's hope on the horizon for sufferers of chronic UTIs. A new vaccine to prevent recurrent urinary infections of the bladder has proved successful in mice and holds promise for protecting against such infections in people. "Results from use of this vaccine in mice are encouraging; further tests will help to determine how it affects humans," says Garabed Eknoyan, MD, president, National Kidney Foundation.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) occur when bacteria, usually Escherichia coli (E. coli), get into the urinary tract. Researchers developed the vaccine to target bacterial structures called pili, hair-like projections on the surface of the bacteria that lets them attach to urinary tract cells and cause infection instead of passing out and being washed by urine. The ability of the bacteria to hang onto these cells is a major factor in causing an infection. A protein molecule called an adhesin that is located at the tips of the pili, makes this attachment possible. The vaccine causes the body's immune system to produce antibodies to this adhesin, preventing the onset of infection.

Clinical trials of the vaccine are expected to begin next year. Scientists want to determine whether or not the vaccine can stimulate immunity to UTIs in women, who are prone to infection, and make sure that it does not eliminate the naturally occurring bacterial population in the intestines.

Currently, UTIs are treated with antibiotics until the infection is cured. In most cases, UTIs occur in the bladder, but they may sometimes spread to the kidneys. If you have one or more of the following symptoms of UTIs, you should seek medical attention:

  • pain over your bladder or in your lower back
  • burning when your pass urine
  • feeling the need to urinate often even though the amount of urine passed may be small
  • getting up often at night to urinate
  • cloudy, bloody or foul-smelling urine

In some cases, fever and chills may start suddenly, with or without pain in the back and below the ribs. For a free brochure on urinary tract infections, call the National Kidney Foundation at (800) 622-9010.

The National Kidney Foundation is dedicated to preventing kidney and urinary tract diseases, improving the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by these diseases and increasing the availability of all organs for transplantation.